Recently we get a lot of kernel messages on our RHEL VM server as:

[Mon Oct  4 11:33:32 2021] EXT4-fs error (device sdb): htree_dirblock_to_tree:914: inode #397095: block 1585151: comm du: bad entry in directory: rec_len is smaller than minimal - offset=0(4096), inode=0, rec_len=0, name_len=0

so we derided too run fsck automatically with -a option ( after umount of course )

$ fsck -a /dev/sdb
fsck from util-linux 2.23.2
/dev/sdb contains a file system with errors, check forced.
/dev/sdb: Directory inode 397095, block #1, offset 0: directory corrupted

        (i.e., without -a or -p options)

in spite we declare to use the -a option , fsck insist to not use it

So the last option is to do it manually as

#  fsck  /dev/sdb
fsck from util-linux 2.23.2
e2fsck 1.42.9 (28-Dec-2013)
/dev/sdb contains a file system with errors, check forced.
Pass 1: Checking inodes, blocks, and sizes
Pass 2: Checking directory structure
Pass 3: Checking directory connectivity
Pass 4: Checking reference counts
Inode 2134692 ref count is 2, should be 1.  Fix<y>? yes
Unattached inode 2134798
Connect to /lost+found<y>? yes
Inode 2134798 ref count is 2, should be 1.  Fix<y>? yes
Unattached inode 2135050
Connect to /lost+found<y>? yes
Inode 2135050 ref count is 2, should be 1.  Fix<y>? yes
Unattached inode 2135058
Connect to /lost+found<y>? yes
Inode 2135058 ref count is 2, should be 1.  Fix<y>? yes

and as we can see above it takes time

Any idea how to force fsck to use -a flag or to run fsck without manual steps ?

1 Answer 1


The -a (or -p) option is used to tell fsck to try to fix the filesystem without user interaction, if this is not possible (there is a risk of losing data or further corrupting the filesystem by choosing a wrong option) fsck -a will fail and tell you to run it in manual mode and decide yourself how each error should be fixed.

From e2fsck man page:

Automatically repair ("preen") the file system. This option will cause e2fsck to automatically fix any filesystem problems that can be safely fixed without human intervention. If e2fsck discovers a problem which may require the system ad‐ ministrator to take additional corrective action, e2fsck will print a description of the problem and then exit with the value 4 logically or'ed into the exit code. (See the EXIT CODE section.) This option is normally used by the system's boot scripts.

If you want to run fsck completely non-interactively you can use the -y option to answer yes to all question but I would advice against doing that.

  • 1
    Could be added that -p is preferred over -a: -a This option does the same thing as the -p option. It is provided for backwards compatibility only; it is suggested that people use -p option whenever possible. Oct 4, 2021 at 12:30

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